Drink the vodka

Travelling to a foreign country can be exhilarating and a little nerve-wracking. 

True explorers like myself embrace the culture shock and the feeling of being “just a little off-centre,” but many view the experience with trepidation.

There are ways to off-set awkward moments by doing a little research, learning a few words in a new language and being prepared to avoid any social faux pas.

Generally speaking, every country is appreciative if visitors at least try to communicate in the local language. 

Learn a few useful phrases and you will endear yourself to your hosts. It’s also important to realize that customs, traditions and gestures that we feel are normal in North America can be completely misconstrued in other countries. 

  • Pointing with your feet: You’re standing in a local market and the vendor has scores of beautiful rugs or carvings spread before you. Both your hands are full with recent purchases so you nudge one of the items with your foot and ask the price. 
  • Beware: in Asia, India and the Middle East showing the bottom of your foot to a stranger is considered highly disrespectful.
  • The feet are considered the most lowly and unclean part of the body in most Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist countries.
  • Don’t touch the monk: Women are not allowed to make physical contact with monks in Laos.
  • Colour of clothing: When travelling on business, avoid the colour yellow in Malaysia as it is reserved for royalty.
  • In China, you’ll make a great impression in red, but not so much in white, which signifies death.
  • Eye contact: Across Latin America and Africa, extended eye contact is seen as a challenge whereas in Western Europe it shows you are taking true interest in the conversation and a sign of self-confidence. 
  • In the Middle East, anything more than a glance between the sexes is inappropriate.
  • Drink vodka: Refusing vodka in Russia is akin to refusing to shake hands. At least take a sip.
  • Chopstick etiquette: According to Japanese custom, it is considered rude to play, point or stab food with your chopsticks.
  • If you’re in the middle of eating, use the opposite end of the sticks to secure food from a shared plate.
  • Using the end that touches your mouth is considered extremely offensive.
  • The Irish: Ireland is Ireland. Not Britain or part of the U.K. Be sure to get this right when chatting with the locals.      
  • Hawaiian leis: Wear your fragrant garland around your neck where it belongs and keep it on while in the presence of the person who gave it to you.   

Simple preparatory research, an open mind and a sense of humour are all that are needed to enjoy a cultural immersion. 

Make friends, not enemies while travelling abroad.                                                                                                                                                                                          




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About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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